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Demystifying The Interior Design Store


I've been meaning for a while to do a post on demystifying interior design stores.  Before I started considering interior design as a profession I had no real idea of how such shops operated.  I think I thought you'd only go into one if you wanted, and could afford, to have the owner do a full interior design job on your house.

A good example of how such a shop actually functions is David Gavin in West Didsbury, Manchester.  The owner, Matt, is an interior designer turned retailer.  He knows how to choose product for the shop and he understands how it will work in someone's home.  When you peer through his constantly-changing shop window, you will see shelves of fabric and wallpaper books.  The choice is so vast that it can be quite overwhelming.  If you can come up with a starting point for your search (you want something bold, blue, subtle, glamorous etc. or an image you've seen in a magazine), Matt can direct you to the sample books that might just hold what you want.


 Image above, David Gavin Interiors - those shelves to the left hold fabulous fabric and wallpaper books.

When you go inside you'll see papers and fabrics being used in settings, and that can help you to imagine how a small sample you like in a book could work in your home.  Not everyone would brave the Fornasetti Acquario (fish) paper on all the walls of their living room, but if you saw it here you might think it could be funky on the chimney breast in a study.  The Fornasetti Nuvolette (cloud) paper might be hard to picture on a ceiling in your home, but seeing it used in-situ might help you make the leap to putting it in your dining room:

You might be forgiven for thinking that the Cole and Son Flamingos paper was only really suitable for use in the kind of homes you see in magazines, but when you see it up close on an expanse of wall with a mirror on it you realize it isn't as wild as it might seem:

 It's a shame to limit the choice of fabrics for your home to those you can see in bolts of cloth in fabric outlets and department stores.  Those sample books hold some of the most beautiful fabrics you can imagine.  Some of them will be incredibly expensive but others are a more affordable luxury.  Most of the fabrics in a shop like David Gavin will be priced between £30 and £150.  You might only need two metres for a lovely blind and if you can make the blind yourself that's ok too.

With a bit of direction from the owner,  you can browse through the fabric and wallpaper books and give free rein to your imagination.  A good store will lend you books to try at home and even request samples for you. There is no obligation to buy, as long as you don't use their expertise, time and resources and then go and order on the internet, but then that's a no no with any kind of bricks and mortar shop.

You might find that spending £60 on a roll of wallpaper for the chimney breast, or even a couple of hundred pounds for a wall, is a great investment and finally helps you achieve the stylish look you've been trying for.

It's partly about choosing the right store and building relationships.  The shop round the corner from your house might not be the ideal one for you.  There's an interiors shop in Altrincham, I won't name it, where one of the owners is so hilariously snobby it would make a cat laugh.  More than one of my friends has been unceremoniously ushered out of that shop because some "VIP" celebrity or other was due to arrive!  Not my idea of great customer service.

Check out David Gavin Design here: http://davidgavindesign.co.uk/

I hope I've helped you to see interiors shops with fresh eyes and maybe even persuaded you to give it a go.



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St Pancras Hotel


Hope you've been having a lovely summer and are enjoying the prospect of September and the new beginnings it often heralds.  For me July and August tend to be extremely busy and I rarely take a break.  Clients are often away and it's a good time to get intrusive work done on their homes so I like to be around.  If you follow me on Twitter you'll know that I enjoyed a long weekend off in July to celebrate a 'big birthday'.  I did this in some style with a stay at the St. Pancras Hotel with my partner, David.  Here is the photographic proof:

I wouldn't always choose a big hotel over a chic boutique one but I really wanted to see what they'd done with this hotel and I'd found it reassuringly friendly when I'd popped in for a quick drink a while ago.  I thought I'd get lots of photos of great style statements but that was not to be and yet I wasn't disappointed.  The furniture and furnishings are very much standard hotel fare and you barely notice them.  What you do notice is the striking building.  The hotel's website has many professional quality photos that show it off rather well so do check it out (link below).  Here I'll share my snaps to give you a flavour of the areas you might be tempted to use.


The Booking Office Bar (above) manages to feel rather glamorous and cool but still casual.  The bar and the furniture is grafted onto the original ticket office hall so the architectural detail and history is still all there to see through the dim lighting.  A small gripe for me is that the oversized bland rectangular light shades hanging over the bar conceal some of the detail that it would be great to see.

The Gilbert Scott Bar (two images below), named after the hotel's original architect, is accessed directly off the street and felt slightly more serene than the Booking Office.  We popped in for a nightcap after the theatre and a dinner out which felt terribly sophisticated, even though I plumped for a hot chocolate (no marshmallows, that would be childish).

I feared the hotel's Gilbert Scott Restaurant would be a bit stuffy and overpriced but it turned out to be friendly and on a par with any other nice London restaurant.  We did roll our eyes a little when the guy from the couple at the next table, aged in their early twenties, asked to see the sommelier for the third time to show off his French and knowledge of wines - almost as entertaining as the lovely live piano music.


The corridor to the new part of the hotel is lined with life-sized images of people who could've staffed the hotel wayback when.  I thought this fellow looked quite ghostly until I saw this snap of me standing next to him and realized that I actually look rather ghostly myself (pale and interesting?).

If you have a chance to stay at the hotel I can highly recommend it.  Failing that you can still pop in and use the bars or the restaurant or even have tea and cake in the lobby.  The staff are lovely and if you are taking the train from St Pancras, King's Cross or even Euston (10 minutes walk away) you'll find it a relaxing place to wait and unwind.

For much better images and lots of info, check out the website:






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A Lancashire Lass Goes over the Border


I remember as a child being told that I was no longer to write my address as Manchester, Lancashire but was supposed to put the county as Greater Manchester.  I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.  Lancashire is a proper county with a history and a character that I relate to strongly.  Greater Manchester is a vague sprawl and a bureaucratic invention.  Part of the identity of Lancashire is tied up with how it relates to its neighbouring county,  Yorkshire.  I view Yorkshire as a good friend that I see too little of and whose company I greatly enjoy.

This is the beautiful old Blacksmith's Cottage we stayed in - don't you just love that stone!  It belongs to a lovely client and she and I renovated and decorated it two or three years ago.  You can see some of my own snaps of the interior in my Portfolio section on this website.

We kick-started the weekend with a trip to Bettys Tea Rooms in Harrogate.  I can't bear to go to Harrogate without going to Bettys.  It is a proper old-fashioned tearoom with a delightful resident piano player and friendly and professional staff all kitted out in black and white to add to the atmosphere.  The food is always delicious and it manages to be more glamorous than twee.  There is often a queue to get in but it goes down surprisingly quickly.  One section of the café is in a basement with no windows, not nearly as awful as it sounds but I always wait for a table in the main room as I love to peer out of the window and enjoy the town.



 The photos on the Bettys website are rather better than mine:

On the Saturday we had the unexpected bonus of meeting up with my sister and her husband who, by pure coincidence, had booked to stay in nearby Grassington for the Grassington Dickensian Christmas Festival.  I'd never been to the village before and would've loved it on any day of the week but it was a bit special with the morris dancers and carol singers, locals dressed in Dickensian costume,  vendors of hot chestnuts and market stalls.

You can get a flavour from my images below but also from the official website.   The festival is happening again on the next two Saturdays.



Yorkshire Grassington Dickensian Character




Not a cheery photo but it does give an indication that life in a picturesque Yorkshire village is not and has not always been totally idyllic:  The children listed on this grave stone all died before they left their teens, the youngest being an infant.

A small detour on our way home to Manchester on Sunday took us to Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  They recently won the Northern Design Award for best independent retailer but that really is the least of their talents.   Much as I love to visit the countryside I'm not a great one for country walks.  I have to know how long a walk is really going to take and what reward, in the form of delicious food, I'm going to get at the end of it.  This is one country park where I would make an exception because you are rewarded for your efforts every few hundred yards by the sight of some weird, wonderful or otherwise impressive work of art.

Ten Seated Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz


Judas by Elizabeth Frink


Cloaked Figure by Lynn Chadwick

This piece by Sophie Ryder is a hare (no, not a rabbit you fool! Don't you know the difference!  Well, ok, maybe I did think it was a rabbit at first.....)  - The enchanting Camellia House and my obliging man in the background should give you an idea of the scale of this piece.

Crawling Lady Hare by Sophie Ryder

We were there at the end of the day for a couple of hours and barely scratched the surface.  Definitely a place that warrants repeat visits.  Go in the right frame of mind and you will love it.



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Lest We Forget


Whenever I go to Liberty Department Store in London I  take my time going up the stairs as the staircase, like the rest of the store, is so very lovely.  I don't know when I first really took in the meaning of this plaque.  It just formed part of the fabric of the building and didn't immediately jump out at me.  I think that is often the way with war memorials.  We become so accustomed to seeing them that we often bearly give them a second thought.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a happy afternoon in Clitheroe, Lancashire and took a walk up to the delightfully positioned Clitheroe Castle.  In the grounds of the castle I was very moved by this memorial that was erected by the people of Clitheroe to honour the men of the town who died in the First World War.  The size, bulk and stance of the figure is a powerful reminder that the names on such memorials represent real men and it is fitting that the statue occupies such a prominent position.

I don't know how many times I must've passed these plaques on the side of this building on Regent Street in Altrincham, Cheshire but I never before realised it was a war memorial.  Without the poppy wreaths it is very discrete which makes its inscription all the more shocking when you read it. (From 60 houses on what had been Chapel Street 161 men volunteered and served in the 1914-18 war.  29 of them lost their lives). 

 War memorials large and small are so interwoven with the architecture of our cities, towns and villages that it's easy to take them for granted, but I'm sure I'm not alone in being glad of them.  However busy our lives are there will always be times when we are brought up short by the significance of them.

The memorial below stands outside the Library in the city village where I live, Didsbury in Manchester.  I love the fact that it is in such a key spot in the village and imagine that for generations children will pass with adults and ask questions about it.

I'd taken the first three photos on this blog post before I even thought about doing a post on them.  I was prompted to post because of the timing, it being Armistice Day today.  When I decided to do a post and had a think about which local memorials I might pop and take a photo of, I was surprised at how many I had to choose from.  When you're driving around tomorrow, going about your normal business, take special heed of memorials and you'll see that they are many and quite varied.

For my final photo I chose the one below which is in a small park in Ardwick Green just a stone's throw from the centre of Manchester.  It is located just outside the local Territorial Army Centre.  Itself a reminder that the dead of war are not just a thing of the past.


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Cute Cars


Seems like a while back now but in the summer I was roped into taking a friend's 2CV to a vintage car show in Didsbury, Manchester.  I'm not normally terribly interested in cars but I do like a nice vintage number.  It struck me how much more attractive I find them than I do the cars of today.  They seem to have such personality, such lovely colours and, often, such glamour.

These examples are so cute to look at head on.  It's almost like looking at a face.  I'm sure the owners of these vehicles will have given them names because they seem to have personality.

I like the chrome and the grilles on the three below but I really love the  colours:

A car like this one would be quite exotic on the streets of Great Britain but it would certainly add some glamour: 

The interiors seem to me to be so much more glamorous.  These steering wheels are like works of art:

Below is the cutie that I drove to the show.  She looks cute but the challenge of driving her reminded me that looks aren't everything when it comes to cars.  Maybe today's cars aren't all that bad after all.

Perhaps I'll look at modern cars with fresh eyes at some point and do a little post on some modern day favourites.


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Architecture: Balcony Spotting in the South of France


August has gone by in a blur of work and deadlines with the odd oasis of fun thrown in, not that work isn't fun at times but it's a far cry from lazing in the sun and hanging out in cafes, my preferred summer activity.  I was looking through some snaps from my trip to France in July and I thought I'd share with you some examples of one of my favourite architectural delights, that is beautiful balconies.  

All the images are of gorgeous decorative ironwork that can be seen if you look up when walking the streets  of Narbonne, Beziers and Montpellier.  


Even a fairly modest apartment like the one we rented has a rather lovely balcony.  This is the view we woke to each morning, just so typically French and casually beautiful.

Looking up at buildings pays off in lots of ways.  The details below these balconies are also stunning, classic stone corbels and beautifully carved details such as cherubs and quite often a striking face.

This top floor balcony looks out on the centre of Montpellier. Can't you just see yourself in that apartment, popping out onto the balcony occasionally to watch the world go by?

Even quite modest small towns in France, and other continental cities for that matter, have exquisite examples of decorative ironwork.  Do make a point of looking out for such gems next time you're abroad.


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Antique Hunting: Pezenas, France


Here's a post for those of you who may be up for a spot of antique hunting in France, if not this summer then maybe sometime in the not too distant future.  When I first started trying to buy antiques in France in the late 90s I and my partner would often waste a good deal of time and fuel driving round trying to find antique shops with only the vaguest notion of their locations.  The advent of the internet and the SatNav has made life a lot easier when it comes to tracking down promising sources but you can still cover a lot of miles between worthwhile outlets. 

There are a few places where good antique shops spring up obligingly close together.  One such gem of a place is Pezenas in the South of France.  It's a lovely languid small French town.  Always hot, always a little dusty.  The buildings are casually beautiful and somehow fading without ever looking anything less than chic.

Pezenas is on the tourist trail even for those who aren't especially interested in antiques.   For a small town it has an impressive looking tourist office (Building below left):

Moliere, who spent his formative writing years in Pezenas, is made much of with at least one hotel and a restaurant named after him and a statue erected in his honour: 

The main attraction certainly is the many antique shops.  There are so many and they offer such an array of goods that you are bound to find something to take home with you.  On the whole the prices are pretty fair once you've bartered them down a little - they won't be offended as long as you don't suggest a ridiculously low price. 

I can't pass places like these in the images below without wanting to go in to see if they have any fabulous items that would really suit a client's home.

If you are into vintage and antique pieces you will love Pezenas.  Let me know if you ever get there.


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Building up Provenance


If you, like me, have seen many episodes of The Antiques Road Show, you'll know that having a record of where an antique has come from and where it has been can make it more valuable as well as more interesting.

This glamorous and groovy 1960s dressing table is currently for sale in http://www.davidgavindesign.co.uk/theshop.html where I sell lots of my pieces.  I love it just for itself; its shape, proportions, fabulous veneer, groovy legs, lovely knobs - great 1960s style.  I love it regardless of where it's come from.  When I'm buying pieces for the shop or for myself or for clients I tend to choose items that are intrinsically attractive and that I would love regardless of origin or even of whether they are genuine antiques or not, but I do get more of a kick out of something with a bit, or a lot, of history.

This dressing table isn't an antique yet, though it is a bit older than me and it already has a history.  I was delighted when I was handed the original bill of sale showing where it was bought, who bought it and for how much:


Below is an image of the dressing table where it is today: 

This is an image of how it looked when I spotted it at a trade only antiques fair in France.  I didn't know if it had its mirror when I spied it so I was really pleased when the two cool young French dealers pulled it out from the back of their van - don't think display was their forte.

It did enjoy a bit of a stint in my home (perk of the job) where it was much loved but an antique dealer can't just hang on to all the good pieces!


I'd like to think that this blog post could form part of its provenance too.  If you own or buy any good pieces of furniture or interesting objects do make the small effort required to maintain its record of ownership.  Someone at sometime in the future may be very thankful for it.

If you're in the UK have a fabulous Bank Holiday weekend.


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Clever and Creative Ways with Plants and Flowers


Hope you've got the same feeling as I have today of summer sunshine being just round the corner.  I really felt the sun beating down on my face while I was out on an errand earlier.  It was heartening to see so many beautiful flowers and plants that people had taken the time to nurture in the gardens in my area.  I was, however, hoping to spot a few examples of some clever and imaginative planters and displays but didn't spot anything that was at all out of the ordinary.  Including in my own garden, I have to add.

I thought I'd share with you a few ideas I've come across lately of original and interesting ways to display plants and flowers.  Flowers are so beautiful that you can really just stick them in any old container and they will look gorgeous but still it is doubly pleasing to introduce an element of the unexpected or outright quirky.  

Here's an idea I spotted recently at Toast on Marylebone High Street in London.  I find their homewares understated and stylish and their shop front reflects that.  I'm plannning to copy this idea in my garden.  I'm sure it can't cost much as hollow breeze blocks are cheaper to buy than most plant pots. Just add paint and plants:

Here's an image of the overall effect:

Liberty in London always surprise and delight with their displays and I found this use of old books enchanting at the same time as being slightly shocking.  Not a bad reaction from a shop display.  I think I might pinch this idea to use at home too - notice how I'm very drawn to the cheap and easy to do option (oh dear!):

This flower bed really made me smile.  It comes via Houzz from the blog Between Naps on the Porch -  http://betweennapsontheporch.net/ - which I think is a great name as it makes the hard work of gardening seem so incidental and optional:


The use of this moped in the impossibly chic Parisian shop Les Mauvaises Graines - http://www.lesmauvaisesgraines.com/ - just goes to show how you can plant up virtually anything that is hanging about in your garden:

Thanks for the above great image to:
Yelp Paris Elite Event Green & The City @ Les Mauvaises Graines, Paris, 17/02/2011 via:

Going back indoors, you might be tempted by this delightful chandelier.  It may be a bit high maintenance but if you love flowers you just may find it's worth it:


I hope this post inspires you to think of new and interesting ways to display plants and flowers.  If you have your own ideas or have spotted any good examples I'd love to hear them.  You can leave a comment describing it or email me a photo.  

Long may the sun shine on us all!






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A Genteel Town: Royal Leamington Spa


I'd only ever paid a very fleeting visit to Royal Leamington Spa many years ago but had a vague memory of a very pretty town with lashings of Georgian architecture.  It was good to have an excuse to go and have a proper look round in the company of my lovely niece who moved there several years ago to study acupuncture and has enjoyed its charms. 

It is indeed a very attractive genteel town with an abundance of Georgian architecture with some Victorian classics thrown in for good measure.  It has the usual collection of high street shops but they all seem a bit more interesting accommodated as they are in beautiful Regency buildings.  There are also a large number of independent stores right in the centre, something you don't find in every town as rents and rates are often too high for them. 

The Royal Pump Room, The Town Hall, and The Bath Assembly Hall are especially striking:

A Georgian Terrace is a thing of beauty, shame about the cars but modern life must go on:

You don't have to leave the town centre to take a walk in a delightful park...

Or a stroll by a river:


And if you have to wait for your train home there are worse places to wait than this station waiting room straight out of the 1930s:

Just lovely for a change to be in such a quintessentially English town and enjoy it for its own sake.


P.s. You may be struck, as I was, by the number of people walking around with guide dogs.  It's because the town is home to the Guide Dog Training Centre.  Well I never knew that!


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Behind The Curve


Hope you're having a lovely Easter break.  Easter is one of my favourite times of the year.  You get a good few days out of your work routine, if not completely work-free, permission to eat lots of chocolate and a chance to spend time with friends and family with none of the pressures that come with Christmas. 

It's been a busy time for me as I was out of town on a couple of days so had to squeeze work into a very short week.  Wednesday was spent in London where I was lucky enough to attend a talk and book launch by Abigail Ahern, one of my favourite designers and bloggers.  More on her in the near future.  

A trip to London is always inspiring and I always come across something I've never seen (or maybe just not noticed) before.  On this trip my "discovery" was in Designers Guild on Marylebone High Street  where I came across some gorgeous plaster busts by kathy Dalwood.  I was delighted by them and could immediately think of a couple of clients who would love them.  They are priced between £280 and £320; expensive ornaments but very reasonable for works of art, which is what they are.

They look so whimsical and delicate.  They are actually quite weighty and solid.  I loved seeing them on these mirror-backed shelves where you have a view of  them from all angles. (The one with Bonaparte in her hat is called Josephine!):

If you're not sure they'd work in your home, take a look at the image below.  How fab would one of those look on your coffee table? Ok, if they'd obscure your view of the tv as you sit slumped on the sofa (or is that just me?), you could always put one on a console or on your mantelpiece, or go the whole hog and place one on a plinth just for fun. (The one on the right has a horse and carriage on her head and is called The Highway Man's Girl):


If you don't love the fresh crisp whiteness of the plaster casts, you may prefer these figurines in concrete:

Of course, when I got home and checked out Kathy Dalwood on the internet I found that she is a long-established, successful artist who's had lots of press coverage - much of it in magazines I subscribe to.  I just hadn't  taken it in until I saw these lovely pieces in the flesh - very behind the curve on this one.

You can see and buy the examples in my photos at Designers Guild, a shop that has been around for so long it's easy to take for granted, but it is an excellent store and well worth a visit if you are in London.  Visit her super informative website for other examples, such as Miss Chatanooga who has a choo choo on her head!

Kathy Dalwood also has a really interesting blog that is well-worth a read.  You can access her site and her blog via this link:


Just off to pick my favourites from the spoils of yesterday's easter egg hunt.


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Since I set eyes on the new Fornasetti wallpaper collection from Cole & Son a few weeks ago, I've been meaning to see if I can persuade you to let a little Fornasetti style into your lives.  In some cases I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted, but others may be more reluctant.  When I suggested some Fornasetti pieces to one client a couple of years ago she was very anti - oh, no, she said, all those Roman heads everywhere.  She did have a point.  Some Fornasetti motifs are so ubiquitous that they seem quite cliched and lose their power to delight, like the Roman heads.  Others are seen just as often but still don't fail to please.  I've seen the Ex Libris book wallpaper from Cole & Son's first collection in 100s of images but I still love it. I'm sure many of the newly created papers will have the same longevity.

This Promenade paper is a no-brainer in a hall or entrance, bootroom or cloakroom.  The price will put a lot of people off (around £350 for a 10metre roll) so you aren't likely to spot it on Coronation Street anytime soon.  However it is 68.5cm high (compared to the usual 52cm), so if placed above the skirting board it ends at dado rail height.  10 metres can go a long way and if you can be imaginative with how you use a roll you might find that you could split one with a friend and share the cost:

(Monkey not included)

The Pennini  paper depicting these lovely nibs may be a bit obvious for a study but I wouldn't let that put me off.  The colours are absolutely gorgeous and the over-sized scale of them adds to the impact.  If you have a desk in an alcove or on a landing I can picture this paper looking super forming a border at desk height.  It would also work beautifully in the bedroom of a bookish young person:

The way Cole & Son have styled this wall with the Nuvolette wallpaper is inspiring but it does also look great on a ceiling.  Shown below in David Gavin Design on Burton Road in West Didsbury.

The Nicchie wallpaper 

 The Nicchie wallpaper is the kind of paper that you can have a lot of fun with.  It would work really well just in the alcoves of a room if you wanted to just buy a small quantity or to give a pantry look in a kitchen or utility.  Some strategically positioned floating shelves and carefully chosen objects would add a great 3-D detail to this paper. 

All of the Fornasetti papers add drama and interest to a room.  Furniture that looks good against a painted wall can look stunning when teamed with the right wallpaper.  This lovely vintage French desk that I've just sold is a great piece in any setting but it looks really fabulous with the unexpected Acquario paper:

Most of these papers, but especially the Nicchie, Acquario and Pennini, could be framed to great effect.  It would be a super way to use up left over roll ends if you can get your hands on any. 

The full collection contains some other lovely gems and you can view them all on the Cole & Son website http://www.cole-and-son.com/Wcollection_detail.asp?CollectionID=126  You can't beat seeing the actual paper though so much better to pop into your local interior design showroom and ask to see their book.  You can find suppliers on the Cole & Son site.

Now I shall leave you so you can go and persuade your other half that you really ought to have some nibs on the wall and clouds on the ceiling....



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A Fond Farewell


January is a time for fresh starts but before new things can begin other things have to end.  I like the positive side of change where you're going to new places, working with different people and finding a new routine, but I'm not so keen on the flip side:  I don't like leaving places where I've been happy or comfortable.  It sometimes leads me to stay too long because I'm reluctant to move out of my comfort zone.

I've known for quite a while that I simply wasn't going to be able to  devote enough time to the retail side of my business all on my own and maintain my interior design work.  I kept resolving to make time for it, imagining that at some point in the future I would have more time.  Predictably, I never found the time!  As you may remember, in November I moved some of my stock into David Gavin on Burton Road in West Didsbury (http://www.davidgavindesign.co.uk/theshop.html )   and things have been going rather well there.  This has made moving out of my showroom a much easier step.

In case you never made it to the showroom,  I thought I'd show you a couple of photos of the beautiful red brick building where it was located.  It was built at the end of the 19th Century next to the Bridgewater Canal to house the offices for the factory behind, which manufactured Linotype printing machines.  It is grade II listed so should be around in some form for centuries to come.

Can you believe I took these photos today (Monday, 28th Jan, 2013)?  Looking at the image it could be spring or summer.  It has served me well for the past two and a half years and I feel lucky to have been part of it for that period. I'll also miss my dedicated parking spot.  I've never had one of those before and don't expect I will again - what a hoot!

Finished moving the last of my stock from the showroom today (Wednesday) and took a few more snaps of the lovely building.  The terracotta frieze sections are holding up pretty well to the beating they get from the weather in their exposed location:

I love the windows particularly:

You can't fail to be charmed by the idea of having the company name incorporated into the stained glass windows - in case my photo isn't up to scratch it reads: Linotype Company Limited:

It's a rather nice example of our industrial heritage looking pretty good for its age. 

Looking to the future, I'll show you more of David Gavin and the great road it is on just as soon as I've unpacked all this stuff!


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Display: Learning from the Experts at The Manchester Museum


One of the lovely things about having visitors is that they make you look at your home town in a different way and visit places you take for granted.  I haven't stepped foot in The Manchester Museum since I was at school and came with my class.  It was a wonderful, imposing and impressive place then and it still is now.  On this visit I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of many of the objects on display - don't remember thinking that back then.  I was probably more agog at the dinosaur skeleton frames and the improbable animals. 

The Museum is housed in a suitably significant building on the main drag into the city centre.  I admire this building every time I pass it and it is a wonderful thought that you can go inside for free any day of the week.   

What really struck me on this visit, looking at it from an interior design point of view, was how well displayed the exhibits were and how well their display methods would translate into a domestic setting.  The huge cabinets are fabulous and I love the way they are set out in rows like a lovely old-style shopping arcade.  Having the cabinets painted in black, rather than the more expected polished brown wood, creates a more contemporary look.  So many homes have cabinetry that would benefit greatly from being painted black or nearly black - Farrow and Ball's Off-Black and Railings are both great colours to use.  I'm thinking particularly of the kind of built-in cupboards and shelves that you often find in the alcoves of Victorian houses.

The cabinets are, of course, also well-lit.  Lighting shelves and cabinets from scratch can be an expensive business but you can have quite a bit of impact with simple, cheap battery-powered LED lights that you can pick up in Ikea or B&Q.

Look at the image below for a great way to display found objects (sea shells you picked up on your hols maybe).  If you're not handy yourself many framing shops would easily create simple partitioned boxes like these for your treasures.

Similar objects grouped together on shelves will have impact purely because of the repetition:

Place them on plinths (just simple blocks of painted wood afterall) of differing heights and you will add a touch of gravitas to the objects: 

If you really want to have a gallery/museum feel you can number your pieces and add some informative labels.  You can make it serious or humourous depending on what you write in the text, e.g. Shell of a crab that bit me on the toe - it won't do that again.

For a bit of variety you could mount your objects on prongs:

These fossils are held in place by small metal brackets:  

The Mummy Portraits below date from around 30 BC - 395 AD, are among the earliest realistic depictions of the human face in two dimensions and are, I imagine, extremely valuable.  Some sepia photos of your own dearly beloved arranged and lit in a similar fashion would look pretty impressive too - tongue firmly in cheek of course!

I hope this post will prompt you to go to the museum, or another museum, to really look at the amazing things on display and learn more about them than how wonderfully displayed they are, interesting as that may be.

Check out the Museum site:


Do take the kids, or your folks.  They'll all love it and the shop and cafe too.  The many children I saw were having a lovely time.  Babies in the City are very positive about how child-friendly it is and they should know.



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